casino news

The ultimate guide to slot machine symbols and icons

Profile Picture: Simon Young

Simon Young

August 25th, 2020

Since the beginning of time (well, about 1890, but who’s counting?), slot machines have entertained us. But although the games have changed beyond all recognition, from mechanical contraptions that needed a bartender to pay out any winnings to today’s hi-tech video slots, the symbols have remained remarkably consistent.

A lot of the similarity is down to tradition – and also a belief that gamblers like familiarity. But that’s not to say there is a lack of innovation in the casino industry. Where there is a themed slot, based on a place, a character, or a musician, the symbols are mostly new.

To see how it all began, let’s rewind to those early days in your typical American saloon.

Oldest slot machine symbols

Cards, and poker especially, were commonplace in those old saloons, just like fistfights and hustles. So it was no surprise when the very first, primitive slots used card symbols – hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades.

Although the suit symbols rarely appear now, the high denomination cards – nine, ten, jack, queen, king, and ace, are still prevalent in all sorts of modern slots, although they are usually low value compared to the main theme symbols.

The poker symbols remained on the rickety old machines until Charles Fey, a native of San Francisco, invented the one-armed bandit. He reduced the reels to three, kept only three card symbols – diamonds, spades, and hearts. What he had against clubs is anyone’s guess.

Article Image

But Fey also introduced horseshoes and the Liberty Bell. Horseshoes were a sign of good luck, while the bell represents American freedom. Soon the number seven became popular as a new symbol. It’s considered a lucky number by many gamblers, and it nudged out the poor old horseshoe.

Fruit slot machine symbols

Fast forward to the 1900s when the humble slot machine was banned in a clampdown on gambling machines. To get around the ban, the Bell-Fruit Gum Company created slots that satisfied thrill-seekers wishing to spin the reels, and paid out in gum, rather than cash.

Now you can see where the famous fruit symbols that are still so popular today started. Cherries, lemons, melons, pears, and oranges are still very common in casino slots. And what does the classic bar mean in slot machines? The bar emerged from the idea that it looked like a bar of gum!

Article Image

Modern slot machine icons

While some of the old fruit and card symbols remain, modern slot games have an incredible variety. With hundreds of different slots to try in any casino, especially online versions like BetAmerica Casino, new games tend to be wildly dissimilar to stand out from the crowd.

Article Image

Okay, some stick with a familiar theme, like Irish leprechauns, Ancient Egypt, or lucky Chinese slot machine symbols, but many are off the wall. Take the Ozzy Osbourne Video Slot, which has all manner of weird gothic symbolism, flying bats, and video graphics of the rocker himself.

Alternative slot machine icons

While you need to land a successive number of any given symbol on any payline to win, there are special symbols to watch out for.

The Wild symbol can act as any other symbol. It can help you to make a winning line, significantly increasing your profits.

Scatter symbols don’t have to appear on a winning line. Instead, they can appear anywhere on the reels. Usually, you need three of them to trigger additional free action, like a free spins feature.

And then there are bonus symbols. Again, get a set number of these to trigger a lucrative bonus game. Sometimes, bonus symbols appear during a free spins round, with the bonus symbols acting as a multiplier. It’s often interchangeable, so always a good idea to look at the slot’s pay table first to understand what is required.

Stacked symbols are relatively new, where a symbol can expand and take up a whole reel. There are also sticky symbols, which remain in place for a set number of spins. These are often high value, and incentivize you to keep playing to make a profitable winning line.

Discover the slot symbols for yourself

Now that you know where slot machine symbols began and what they mean, it’s time to try them out for yourself. You can head over to BetAmerica Casino and try any of the hundreds of slot games there for free.

Once you’re comfortable with how it all works, you can try your luck and play for real money – hoping the symbols fall in your favor, bringing you good fortune.

Win free spins every week in our BetAmerica Casino!